(Bloomberg) -- The pandemic is accelerating a digital revolution in agricultural powerhouse Brazil by forcing farmers to buy equipment and get assistance online, according to Deere & Co.
Lockdowns and social distancing are preventing the traditional face-to-face interaction between farmers and providers at dealerships and rural fairs, with both parties reverting to video conferencing or specialized applications.
Brazilian growers, who are younger than their U.S. counterparts on average, have adapted well to digital platforms as the virus keeps them on their farms, said Rodrigo Bonato, Intelligent Solutions Group director for Latin America at the world’s biggest tractor maker. Machinery sales are expected to match last year’s levels amid another bumper harvest, according to industry group Anfavea.
“The pandemic has caused a paradigm shift,” Bonato said in an interview. “People in the countryside need to be connected to the world, and the pandemic is accelerating that.”
A lack of viable communications networks in rural areas has been a barrier to Brazilian growers tapping into databases and platforms that can help them lift yields and cut costs.
With higher demand by farmers to connect for everything from virtual medical appointments to technical assistance, telecommunications companies are more interested in building networks in remote regions, Bonato said.
Brazil has about 9.5 million hectares (23 million acres) connected, or 25% of the soybean planted area. In five years, connectivity may reach 70-80% of Brazilian farms, he said.
That could help lift efficiency in a country that’s already the biggest exporter of soybeans, sugar and coffee.
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